Sunday, April 27, 2014

Executive Suite (1954)

When the head of a large manufacturing firm dies suddenly from a stroke, his vice-presidents vie to see who will replace him. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actress: Nina Foch
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White
There's no specific reason why I saw this film last night. I had always been curious about it, because I'd heard only great things and you have to admit the cast IS impressive: Holden, Stanwyck, March, Pidgeon, Winters, Calhern, Allyson, Jagger, Paul Douglas and... Oscar-nominee Nina Foch - her nomination is well deserved; she doesn't get big scenes, but she's a very reasurring presence.

It's probably one of the most business-y films I have ever seen, with a very serious tone and it grabs your attention. The speech at the end is quite excellent and the cinematography feels very special.

My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Stanwyck might just be best in show (though Pidgeon is great too). I assume she didn't accept to be campaigned as Supporting, otherwise she would've been nominated.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Two Women / La Ciociara (1960/61)

Cesira and her 13-year-old daughter, Rosetta, flee from the allied bombs during World War II. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Sophia Loren (WINNER)

This is a film that works very nicely up until the last 15-20 minutes, when it loses the tension it built up to till then. That and the terrible-terrible casting of the daughter role stop this film from being great. But it's a damn good film because it relies a lot on Sophia's charisma, which is always a good idea.

It's quite obvious that she's too young for the part, but she carries the film like no other would've. She also brings humour to the story in the no-bullshit line delivery and there's a charming realism to the role, that also applies to the overall film.

My rating for the film: 8.5/10. Recommended.

Summer and Smoke (1961)

Plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student, but he prefers the wilder life, until it's too late. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Actress: Geraldine Page
Best Supporting Actress: Una Merkel
Best Music, Drama or Comedy
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color

This was Geraldine's only 2nd feature film and it brought her a second Oscar nomination. It's a role she had previously played on stage, with it being an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' (not-so-successful) play. I won't share my thoughts on Geraldine, I'm keeping them for the other blog (where I'll do my Best Actress 1961 ranking in a week or so).

I've actually seen the film twice in a month and found it just slightly better the second time around. It's hard for the film to succeed when the two leading characters are dislikeable, each in a different way. But it's not a bad film, I would say not even boring. It's very very theatrical, if you can hold that against it. It has a touch of Williams' perversion which makes it quite... juicy (if not cool) at times. Elmer Bernstein's original score is excellent, Una's performance and nomination are rather ignorable and I will salute the scene/shot where Rita Moreno's character dances for Geraldine's. That was funny and a nice touch.

My rating for the film: 6.5/10. A big wink to the ending and the casting of the dude.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ball of Fire (1941) (2nd time)

A group of ivory-tower lexicographers realize they need to hear how real people talk, and end up helping a beautiful singer avoid police and escape from the Mob. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:
Best Actress: Barbara Stanwyck
Best Writing, Original Story
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture
Best Sound

I'm glad I got the chance to see this film again for the other blog, because when I first saw it many years ago (must be about 8-10 years), I gave it a lower rating. And watching it again I found it funny, because if anything the film is well written (a screenplay by none other than Billy Wilder) and I giggled a couple of times.
It has to be one of the last true screwball comedies and it mostly works: the story is silly, but the film never gets too boring and Barbara delivers quite a memorable performance in what seems to have been a great acting year of hers (with other raved performances in The Lady Eve and Meet John Doe).
My rating for the film: 8/10.